Gil: Welcome to the Greek System

by Michelle Gil | 10/22/15 7:19pm

With ’19s now able to join the Dartmouth basement scene, I have decided to offer up a bit of advice to our zealous first-years. This is not going to be the witty, sarcastic fraternity basement advice column, like, “Don’t crash a semi” or “Prepare to be bumped off table.” Instead, this is going to be serious, important advice for freshmen entering the new territory of the basement.

When it comes to alcohol, trust yourself and be aware of your limits. For some, fraternities will be the first time you encounter alcohol. For many, it will not — but it will likely be your first encounter with such easy access. Just because you could, in theory, drink 20 Keystones in a basement, does not mean you should. I watched people try to accomplish such “feats” during my first year. By no coincidence, those were also some of the first people I saw booting on the lawns and walls of fraternities, and in some cases even getting Good Sammed. If you have already made the decision that you do not plan to drink, do not let yourself feel pressured just because alcohol abounds in the basement scene. It is perfectly okay to play pong with water. It is equally acceptable to walk around the basement with a Powerade from the Novack vending machines — or no drink at all. Even as a 21-year-old senior, I still carry around non-alcoholic drinks in basements much more frequently than I actually choose to imbibe.

Even though it might be exciting to finally enter the world of “The Basement,” be careful not to let your night life affect your day life. For example, frequently staying in basements until 4 a.m. to hone your pong skills and then missing class the next day is not advisable. Although a lot of first-years might be tempted to go out to the frats as many nights a week as someone will open a front door for them — and yes, my friends and I did this our first year as well — try sticking to, at most, the main “on nights” of Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. As fun as it might be to live out the “fratstar” persona, I cannot tell you how many fellow ’16s I saw start out like that, only to struggle with serious alcohol dependency issues later in their Dartmouth careers.

My next piece of advice is about what to do if you see someone else — probably a first-year, but not always — who has clearly had too much to drink. If someone is stumbling, can barely walk or talk or is throwing up profusely, that person needs help. And of course, if you see two people trying to leave a frat or go into a room and one or both of them is clearly intoxicated and not in a mindset to make intelligent decisions, please, step in immediately. If they really want to hook up with each other, they can wait 24 hours and meet up a little less drunk the next night. If several people are already helping, then you do not necessarily need to go out of your way to get involved. But if someone looks dangerously drunk and no one else is around, do not assume that someone else will eventually step in to help them. Do you absolutely need to Good Sam the person? No. But I would suggest bringing him or her to an empty room and having someone sit with them while someone else gets them water and food. Stay with them until they are stable, and then ask if they would like you to help them get home. They might get defensive at this point, but I would suggest calmly pointing out that they appear to be an uncomfortable level of inebriated. If they still do not want to go home, ask them if they would like to go to grab late night food with you. Several times I have coaxed belligerently drunk first-years with me to Collis with the promise of mozzarella sticks.

Although it might seem awkward to get involved in a situation with a drunk person you do not know — or even an extremely drunk and stubborn friend — it is worth it to be the “bad guy” for the night if safety is at stake. In my almost three and a half years here, I’ve been yelled at, cursed out and even hit by drunk friends or strangers who I have attempted to help. But you know what? Come the next morning, almost everyone single one — friend or stranger — has reached out to thank me and the other people who got involved for helping them when they could not help themselves. And when I have been the stubborn person in need of help, once I have sobered up I have always been extremely grateful and appreciative of anyone who stepped in.

I am not telling you that you should not go out or drink at all, or that you should stop people around you from drinking. I am instead giving you the advice I — likely along with a number of ’16s — wish I had gotten when I was a first-year. This is advice coming from a genuine place of concern, from a senior who was in your shoes not too long ago, and is becoming nostalgic and reflective now that she is about to leave Dartmouth.